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A Desert Spring in Tucson

When most people hear the word desert, they picture a brown landscape devoid of life. But this image contrasts greatly with spring in Tucson, Arizona, when vivid colors blanket the desert landscape with spectacular effect.

Spring not only brings gold poppies, blue lupines and white desert chicory, but early March through mid-May also brings more temperate weather than that of the scorching summers. The ideal temperatures make it the best time to explore Tucson’s attractions and festivals, among them the popular Tucson Festival of Books and the Agave Heritage Festival.

Whether they are tempted by the cooler temperatures, the kaleidoscope of wildflowers, the exciting festivals or all the above, groups will love Tucson in the spring.

Saguaro National Park

Growing up to 45 feet tall, the saguaro cactus native to Tucson is a symbol of the desert Southwest. These plants, some of which are 250 years old, thrive in Saguaro National Park, especially during May, when they burst into white bloom.

“The park is gorgeous in spring,” said Dan Gibson, director of communications for Visit Tucson. “Groups can have an experience with park rangers, hike and then have dinner.”

The Saguaro National Park offers a convenient way to explore the Sonoran Desert landscape, ancient petroglyphs and an impressive amount of wildlife. Groups can get an overview of each of these topics at the Red Hills Visitor Center. The center runs an orientation program that offers a Native American perspective on the saguaro cactus alongside other exhibits.

Short hikes, such as the Valley View Overlook Trail, showcase the distant mountain ranges and up-close verdant flora. Another short walk, the Signal Hill Trail, includes a hill covered with dozens of petroglyphs that date back 800 years.

Driving tours, guided horseback rides and ranger programs, such as Night Hikes, can easily keep groups captivated for half a day or more.

Tucson Festival of Books

Every year, more than 130,000 book lovers convene one weekend in March for the Tucson Festival of Books. Hosted by the University of Arizona since 2009, the event boasts a surprising diversity of events, from a science fair and varied entertainment to local retailers and workshops.

“The Tucson Festival of Books is one of the largest book festivals in America,” said Gibson. “If your group has any affection for reading at all, it’s a great event on a large scale.”

Attendees interact with over 400 authors who participate in presentations and workshops of all types. Groups can sit in on a presentation by a best-selling author and 10-minute Tent Talks by emerging authors, or browse through the numerous exhibitor tents.

Workshops on writing fiction, poetry, science fiction and other literary topics are a more hands-on way to experience the festival. Groups can also sit back and watch musicians, a Cirque du Soleil-style circus performance, taekwondo demonstrations and other acts throughout the two days.

Guests can take a break from fiction to discover the facts at the festival’s Science City. The science fair displays intriguing exhibits, such as a larger-than-life camera that visitors can walk through at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory or the largest telescope mirrors in the world at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab.

Shoppers will delight in browsing through collectible books, clothing, jewelry and even rare items like Navajo rugs in the vendor area. After working up an appetite, attendees can choose from several dining options, including an on-site local pizzeria, a bakeshop, a taco shop and a burger joint.

Eliza Myers

Eliza Myers has worked for The Group Travel Leader since 2007. She is the online editor and associate editor for Select Traveler.

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